WASHINGTONVILLE, N.Y. – Tucked into a quiet corner of rolling farmland an hour
north of New York City lies what may be the Hudson Valley’s best-kept secret:
Brotherhood Winery, a verdant campus of vineyards, a bottling facility, gift
store and tasting room.
Last year marked its 170th anniversary, making
Brotherhood the nation’s oldest continuously run winery. Open year-round for
tours and tastings, the winery has been quietly drawing visitors from around the
world, from a reputation for excellence that dates back to the 19th
Brotherhood Winery earned its longevity because it successfully
evaded the prohibition era by supplying regional churches with sacramental
wines. The Hudson Valley winery was founded in 1839 by a family of Huguenots and
has had only a handful of different owners since. In its infancy, Brotherhood
became known for its earthy Pinot Noir, and has since built a worldwide
reputation on its award-winning Blanc de Blanc Champagne, Ruby Port and Cabernet
Sauvignon. Bill and Hillary Clinton also selected brotherhood’s Riesling as the
American white wine of choice for White House functions.
Brotherhood’s award-winning wines and champagnes have spread across the eastern
seaboard and beyond and in recent years, it’s become a frequented day trip
destination for wine aficionados.
Tours are conducted daily, often led by
owner and wine master, Cesar Baeza. Tours begin in subterranean caverns where
Winnebago- sized barrels of Merlot and Riesling age for several years before
they’re bottled and shipped around the world (Brotherhood has customers as far
away as Japan and Europe).
Baeza, a native of Chile, is often found in
the cavernous tasting room, pouring samples of Riesling and Blanc de Blanc
Champagne and Brotherhood’s award-winning Riesling for visitors.
his professional start in the vineyards of Santiago and has worked at wineries
around the globe, coaxing the best qualities out of grape crops in the Napa
Valley, Spain, even Russia, before coming to Brotherhood.
the Brotherhood legacy with touches such as aging his wine in barrels crafted
from French oak trees, and replacing them every four years.
Much of the
grape crop is grown on 40 acres along the Hudson River under the Rip Van Winkle
Bridge, where Baeza says the rich soil and colder climate are the perfect
elements for producing character-bursting Merlots and Chardonnays.
more stress put on a grape, the more character it has. Our grapes grow in a cold
climate, so they have to suffer a bit,” he says. “Their maturation is slower, so
they release a higher level of resveratrol, which is the compound that’s good
for your heart.
Pinot Noirs from New York state have the highest levels
Though he travels south of the equator each winter to
oversee his Santiago vineyards, Baeza devotes the bulk of his energy to the
ever-expanding vineyards on Brotherhood’s Orange County properties.
people come visit Brotherhood, they’re often surprised by the quality of the
wines,” he says. “They never realized this type of wine could be made in New
York. Our best-selling wines are Riesling and Pinot Noir; they grow very well in
a cold climate.”
One of Brotherhood’s most popular signature creations is
its deep crimson Holiday Wine. The fragrant Dutch recipe is imbued with 12
spices (not flavorings), including cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. “It’s served
warm or at room temperature,” says Baeza.
“It’s also great for
Besides using Brotherhood wines in home cooking, Baeza decided
a perfect way to showcase his wines would be to open an on-site restaurant.
Enter the Vinum Café, the restaurant is the creation of the Zagatendorsed chef
Christian Pierrel, who hails from Normandy. The restaurant opened in May and
features French-inspired menu items such as Hudson Valley foie gras, sautéed
escargot, teriyaki-lacquered salmon and elegant endive salads.
wine go hand in hand,” says Pierrel. “That’s why I decided to open my restaurant
here. And Caesar’s wines have an unusual character and depth. They’re more
elegant and structured than many wines.”
Plans are also under way to
allow visitors to view grapes up close and learn about the different varieties
that grow in the Hudson Valley.
“My pet project is the ‘Gardens of
Varieties’ which we planted this spring. Each row is a different grape variety.
The idea will be to teach people how to grow grapes,” says Baeza. “We’ll also
put in a picnic area nearby. People don’t like to rush through when they get
here, Brotherhood is meant to be savored.”
IF YOU GO: Brotherhood Winery,
100 Brotherhood Plaza Drive in Washingtonville is approximately an hour north of
New York City off of Exit 17 (Newburgh) of I-87.
The winery is open
Tuesday through Sunday.
Tours are given between 11:30 a.m. and
3:30 p.m. Tasting room hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 11
a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Grape stomping is open to anyone interested and takes
place from noon to 4 p.m. For more information call (845) 496-3661, or visit
www.brotherhoodwinery.net.The writer is a freelancer living in Lake
George, N.Y. www.staceymorris.com